Raphael’s Mobile Outreach Programme is named after John Hunt who was one of our loyal supporters and passionate about the work and vision of Raphael. He left a bequest that helped Raphael initiate this outreach. Its purpose is to work with families raising children with special needs living in remote rural areas of Uttarakhand where services for such children are virtually non-existent.
Volunteer Kim Butler recently joined one of their trips. Here's her account of her experience.
I was incredibly fortunate to travel with two of the Special Educators from Raphael out into the remote Himalayan mountains as part of the John Hunt Outreach Programme. A nearly eight hour drive along very narrow and incredibly winding roads and we reached the district of Uttarkashi to the north of DehraDun.
Uttarkashi is divided into six smaller ‘blocks’. This was the final block in this district to be visited by the team. I couldn’t believe the distances covered to provide training, advice and support around disability.
On arrival, Mini, Ganga and I presented to 215 Anganwadi - woman who look after children up to the age of six in the villages - about disability and how to identify disability in children. Some had walked up to 30 kilometres to be there and were incredibly appreciative of the information and training they received.
I spoke about how to identify learning disabilities in children with the assistance of an interpreter. Our training session was cut a little short as a thunderstorm threatened and many of the woman had a long walk in the rain to return to their villages.
Early the following morning we were taken by one of the supervisors up into a very remote village where we joined in one of the Anganwadi sessions.What a truly incredible experience to share in traditional village life.
Mid-morning the Anganwadis from around the district returned with children they identified as having delayed development and their parents. We assessed 31 children from eight months old to 14 years through a range of simple activities such as blowing bubbles, sorting blocks by colour and shape and copying simple shapes and patterns.
The child’s parents and the Anganwadi were also asked many questions about the child and their development. The children presented with a range of disabilities including deafness, cerebral palsy and intellectual disability, to name a few. It was obvious to me that these children were very much loved and the parents were incredibly grateful that we were taking an interest in their child and offering advice and support. The Anganwadi and the parents were very keen to learn about different strategies to assist the child and were given handouts to support them. Many parents were also issued with a Disability Certificate for their child. This Certificate entitles the parents to receive 1,000 Rupees per month (approximately $21 NZD). This financial assistance will make a huge difference in the lives of these families.
I was impressed with the work of the outreach program and could see the difference it makes to the lives of so many rural children and their families.
It will be vitally important that there is follow up support for these children and ongoing training for the Anganwadi who work closely with the children and their families if the Programme is going to make a difference long term.
To support the John Hunt Outreach Programme, click here ➡